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(en) alter-ee: protesting in Belarus

Date Sun, 19 Mar 2017 10:26:06 +0200


In Belarus last weeks people took to the streets to fight the law against social parasitism – law that was signed by dictator Lukashenko in 2015, but started troubling population only at the beginning of the 2017. Thousands took to the streets in Minsk, Brest, Gomel and many other smaller cities all around the country, to show their discontent with the law and the current regime. The protests seems to have little influence from “official” opposition- instead of that people previously not involved in the politics are organizing together. In several places anarchist played quite a big role in the protests. Last week belarusian government started repressions against those on the streets – up until now over 48 people were detained and prosecuted for different violations.

Social parasites

Belarusian government started talking about social parasitism somewhere after 2010 elections. The idea was not new to the region – previously in soviet union people who were not officially employed were always under threat of prosecution. This time belarusian government was doing the same – Lukashenko wanted to punish those who are not working or working but not paying taxes.

Slowly step by step through several ministries the idea have crystallized – the law was written and presented to Lukashenko who eagerly signed it. Inside it was stated that every person who is not working for more than 6 months in a year have to pay a “tax” to the state to cover the “social” state – free public health care and education. The sum to pay for many people was quite big – around 180 euro per year, with an average salary somewhere between 200 to 300 euro per month depending on the region of the country.

This was done next to already existing humiliating quantity of 15 dollars per months for those officially registered at the unemployment center – money that you would only get after one day of work assigned by the unemployment agency.

Of course in 2015 there was already a certain level of discontent, but it never turned into real protests – the law promised to start working only in 2017, and a lot of people were expecting that the government would back off. Instead of that by the end of 2016, beginning of 2017, people began to receive something that got nicknamed “letters of happiness” where it was stated that due to their “financial inactivity” in 2015 they have to pay a tax to the state. And that was the moment when it stroke a lot of people – by the official state media around 450 000 people are affected by the law (with the working population around 5 000 000 people).

You could avoid paying the tax if you go to the governmental commission and explain yourself and your bad financial situation. This is one of the most humiliating procedures that belarusian people facing financial troubles has to go through.

There is a punishment as well – those who are not capable of paying the law can be sentenced up to 15 days of forced labor or to pay a fine together with the tax.

Marches of nonparasites

First march against the law took place on 17 February 2017 in Minsk. It gathered around 2000 people on a demonstration not allowed by authorities. After a short symbolic march from the palace of republic (main square in Minsk) to the parliament the demo was over and the organizers from the opposition were calling people to go home and come back in one month, giving time for Lukashenko to cancel the law. One of the most organized and loudest groups during the demonstration were the anarchists – and they were the only group that was shortly attacked by the police after demonstration – one banner was stolen, however people were unarrested and left home. Huge support for the anarchist came from usual people that were also resisting the police, escorting participants of the anarchist block to the safe place.

During next week the demonstrations in Gomel and Brest took place, with several thousand participants all together. They were the biggest protests outside Minsk in the whole history of Belarus. In Brest small group of anarchists took over the demonstration from opposition, that was trying to organize a meeting with the local mayor. Instead of that people occupied the streets and went through the city chanting “No to decree #3, Lukashenko go away” (Decree #3 is the official registration number of the law). After the success of the march in Brest several anarchists were arrested at home and sentenced to 5 days in jail. Later on protests moved to smaller cities all around the country with hundreds to thousands participating in different places: Orsha, Bobruisk, Kobrin, Luninec are among those – probably places that you have never heard in your life. Those small towns haven’t seen any demonstrations over decades, and now people are protesting against the law together.

Under the pressure of the protesters Lukashenko had to back off – he officially announced the freezing of the law for 2017, and the return of the money to those who have already paid the tax, but just if they are currently working or will find a work in 2017. This didn’t stop protesters, who are now demanding not only the cancellation of the law but also the retirement of Lukashenko and his government.

Raisins in the bread rolls

Last week on Monday the belarusian state TV has issued a propagandist movie where the whole protesting movement is split into two parts – those who are genuinely affected by the law and deserve compassion, and mere “provocateurs”. The state TV is pointing these “provocateurs” as people who are there to create another Maydan in the region and destroy the country stability. The film explains that among those “provocateurs” are the anarchists who are considered to be chaotic foot troops of liberal nationalists. The movie makes clear that the government is not going to back off under the pressure of the protesters and will repress those who are not conforming.

Lukashenko made a statement as well last week to address the problem. Apart from long tirades from the good king about the bad bureaucrats who understood the law wrongly, he also made a statement saying that there are “special” elements inside of the protests that have their own agenda and are not interesting in the prosperity of the belarusians. Those are again anarchists and opposition activists. Trying to make a metaphor he called those people raisins in the rolls – obviously Lukashenko doesn’t like raisins.

First arrests were made even before the movie was done – several people from Brest were caught after the demonstration by the civil cops that hunted them all around the town. Later on, arrests of some famous opposition members also took place. Last days demonstrations in several towns also ended up with prosecutions again journalists and participants

By now over 48 people were detained and prosecuted for different violations: starting with violating the law on public gatherings and ending up with accusation of immoral behavior on the streets. Different activists got from 5 to 15 days in jail and some of those who were already sentenced to 5 days were rearrested and prosecuted again for swearing in public in front of the prison gates – common tactic of police forces that are rearresting people inside of the prisons without even letting them out.

Map of people arrested can be found here – http://www.svaboda.org/a/28365086.html

The next march is planned on Wednesday 15.03. and people are expecting different scenarios – Lukashenko can freak out completely arresting everybody showing up, or attacking and arresting people after the demonstration. At the same time everything can go smoothly and police will not escalate the conflict. The second is less likely.

Taking into account the recent statement about raisins and anarchist role in destabilizing the whole situation, we out here expect an increase of repressions, and more people detained/arrested than it was in last years.

More Information about repression in Belarus: https://abc-belarus.org

If you feel like supporting anarchists repressed in Belarus you can always donate money to Anarchist Black Cross

Hi everybody

News are reporting on protesting in Belarus against the new tax on
"non-working" people. What about that? Are any perspectives ion that?
After the protesting do people keep on organizing stuff? And mostly,
what about the politcal power? do they consider taking the tax back?

Hi, just a few theses on that.
- indeed the protest started on February 17 and was called by a
Belarusian National Congress (part of the opposition). The other part of
the the opposition boycotted the day because they wanted to make their
own protest on March 15 (the day of the constitution) and because they
are competing for the electorate.
- a lot of regular people came to protest (around 2-3 thousands in
Minsk, which is a lot for Belarus), nobody expected that. Anarchist came
to support the demo.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1122729071178770/permalink/1210370935747916/
Only plaincloth police were present, they didn't detain anyone, but
tried to catch a few anarchists in the end.
At that demo the politicians called the people to come again on March 25
which is the Day of Freedom (the date of first announcement of
Belarusian republic in 1918) and clearly they want to co-opt the social
protest and channel it into their political march. Note that they didn't
call people to come to March 15 actions organised by other opposion.
- On February 19 in several regional cities the same Congress called for
meetings on the same topic. The most mass attended was in Gomel with 3-4
thousand people. In other cities nobody from the opposition actually
cared to organise anything and people started to self-organise - just
shouting how their life is fucked up. Again, nowhere police interfered,
only later a few politicians from Gomel received papers for
non-sanctioned protest.
- On Feb 26 protest happened again in Vitebsk and 3 more cities. This
time Vitebsk was the most attened - 2-3 thousands, ans again nobody care
to even bring them some loudspeaker. People were deciding themselves
where to go and shouted different things.
- In some cities they want to hold another protest on march 5.
- Meanwhile, the other opposition prepares meeting countrywide on march
15, but it's not clear if they are actually not late for the protest.
- And also, they all expect a lot of people on they celebration of March
25th.

So generally the protests are used for letting the steam off where
people share bad things that the authorities done to them and it's
enough. Many really enjoy this feeling of being a bi potent crowd as
they never felt it before. This is made possible by the lack of
repression. Some people collect signatures against the law, some burn
papers from the lax office, some claim they are 'giving the authorities
2 weeks to change the law, otherwise..." they probably meet again and
collect more signatures. Generally people call not to pay the tax and
ask Lukashenko to go and provide the space for the youth.

The power meanwhile is organising meetings with people explaining them
the law and changing the law a bit to exclude most sensitive social
groups. To have the tax anulled, people in bad situations should come to
a special commission, explain how fucked up their life is and ask for
mercy to a range of officials. People are very ashamed of that, here is
the viral picture of a woman crying in from of the officials

https://scontent-otp1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/16864138_1239393156114138_298980823764561271_n.jpg?oh=629e167144c23f3bdb8844001494603b&oe=593E0FBF

Generally, the feeling is that they will have to call off this tax and
too many people are not ready or even able to pay it.

here are a public overview about the recent development in Belarus we would like to share and also raise awareness, as the situation might get more tense.

https://abcdd.org/en/2017/03/14/groesste-proteste-in-belarus-in-den-letzten-10-jahren/
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